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Epic Racing Expected at 2024 4Islands MTB Croatia

By 4Islands, 04/15/24, 8:45AM HST


4Islands Croatia blends exceptional riding and the perfect terrain for racing with a party atmosphere off the bike as it islands hops through Croatia’s Kvarner islands. The 2024 race features a 272 kilometre long route, with challenges with rugged limestone singletracks and 6 210 metres of accumulated ascent, and could present an opportunity for redemption for ORBEA LEATT Speed Company and Bulls Mavericks, after their disappointing Absa Cape Epic campaigns, while Buff Megamo will look to build on their African momentum. 

Starting from the harbour town of Baška, on the island of Krk, the 2024 4Islands MTB Croatia gets underway on Tuesday, 16 April. The 12 kilometre long Prologue course, which will be raced in a time trial format, presents the UCI Men’s and Women’s race favourites with an opportunity to lay down a marker ahead of four days of marathon racing on Krk, Cres, Lošinj, and Rab. This year’s UCI Men’s race favourites include ORBEA LEATT Speed Company, Bulls Mavericks and two Buff Megamo teams. While Cannondale ISB Sport, the Buff Megamo Women, and Canyon SIDI Pure Humanpwr start the event as the leading UCI Women’s contenders. 


Lukas Baum and Georg Egger are the defending champions. In 2023 Egger reported arriving in Croatia in stellar form after the Absa Cape Epic, which helped him fly through the 4Islands MTB Croatia trails. This year could well be the same as Egger finished the Pinnacle event, of the Epic Series, strong while Baum was forced to withdraw with a stomach bug, on the penultimate stage. How well Baum has recovered since then could determine how able the ORBEA LEATT Speed Company duo are to take the fight to Bulls Mavericks, Buff Megamo and Co. 


Simon Schneller approaches 4Islands MTB Croatia after a successful Grand Finale performance in South Africa, but a generally frustrating Absa Cape Epic. The German’s teammate Axel Roudil-Cortinat missed the Untamed African Mountain Bike race after a crash, a week before departing for Africa, in training. This meant that Urs Huber had to be drafted into the Team Bulls squad at the last minute. Schneller was therefore unable to showcase the form he had been building throughout the winter. With a motivated Roudil-Cortinat alongside him, Schneller will look to challenge Baum, Egger and the Buff Megamo teams. 


Doing so will require a significant performance however, as the Spanish squad are riding high on confidence. Wout Alleman, fresh from two days in yellow at the Absa Cape Epic, races alongside Pablo Rodriguez Guede on the Kvarner islands. While Hans Becking is partnered by his long-time Buff Megamo teammate José Dias. The dynamism provided by the Buff Megamo 1 and 2 teams will be tough to counter for ORBEA LEATT Speed Company and the Bulls Mavericks, but they are not the only squad with two teams in the race. 


Klimatiza Toteemi Cabberty have strength in depth and numbers thanks to Roberto Bou Martin and Sebastian Gesche, as well as Miguel Muñoz and Luis Martínez. The rest of the top ten contenders are made up by the Metallurgica, STOP&GO MTB, HEXATRI and KILPI - Scott France teams. Hem Ole and Billi Jacopo, Sell Niklas and Reuss Lasse, Pierre Billaud and Théo Dupras, as well as Milan Damek and Mourier Emilien will likely be looking to challenge for top five places, rather than outright victory however. 47-year-old Haimar Zubeldia is also among the UCI Men’s teams, racing with Julen Zubero for EIDF. Zubeldia explained during the Absa Cape Epic that his continued registration as an elite campaigner, rather than in the age-group Masters category is because he “prefers to have the lion by the tail, than to be the head of the mouse.” 


In the UCI Women’s field there are three stand-out teams. Cannondale ISB Sport, Buff Megamo, and Canyon SIDI Pure Humanpwr are hard to split, on paper, ahead of the race. Meritxell Figueras could help Monica Calderon to not only earn an Epic Legend medal, for completing the Absa Cape Epic and two Legend status Epic Series events, but also to achieve the overall victory at 4Islands MTB Croatia. Figueras, like Baum and Roudil-Cortinat, could use the race to exorcise the demons of not completing the Absa Cape Epic. 


Tanja Priller is the reigning German Marathon Champion and lines up alongside Stephanie Walters. Walters, née Dohrn, won the 2022 edition alongside Lejla Tanovic, and that experience could stand her in good stead in 2024. Especially in the battle against Calderon and Figueras, as well as the Buff Megamo, Janina Wust and Rosa van Doorn. 


Wust is a highly experienced stage racer and has already claimed a victory alongside Van Doorn in 2024. The Buff Megamo women won few days ago in , at the end of March, and claimed two stage victories in the process. That island racing should translate well to the Adriatic; as both routes feature short, sharp climbs and rocky singletrack descents.


Those trails, though challenging, are undoubtedly part of the 4Islands MTB Croatia charm. As fellow UCI Women’s challengers Costanza Fasolis and Giulia Alberti, of MenteCorpo Cicli Drigani, Daniela Höfler and Alessia Nay, of Koba, and the 8capital team, of Janka Keseg Stevkova and Martina Krahulcova know. They, like the age category campaigners, will need to Conquer the Rocks; but all will be rewarded for their efforts. 


On the bike the beauty of Krk, Cres, Lošinj, and Rab provides a remarkable backdrop to every metre of the course. Ancient landscapes, shaped by millennia of weather, are augmented by historic villages and old growth coniferous forests, while the eternal ocean is never far away. Off the bike, ferry transfers, accommodation in sea-side hotels and on boats, as well as the holiday atmosphere make for a relaxing overall experience.